AFFCO, t-shirts, and the “jobs jobs jobs” mantra

Talley’s AFFCO have literally stood down five people from going to work wearing union t-shirts:

AFFCO said the t-shirts, with the slogan ‘Jobs that count’ on the front and ‘Meat Workers Union’ on the back…resemble gang insignia.

[CTU President Richard Wagstaff said] “These t-shirts were simple t-shirts that said they were Union members, and they would have been covered up when they got to work by the uniforms at work so it’s really petty and silly and beyond any sense of credibility for this employer.”

This is a company cartoonishly terrified of the people who work for them – people they consider their inferiors – showing any ability to act as a collective. Talleys are the kind of boss unions are accused of making up, the bad employers who we’re told don’t really exist, whenever National is trying to take more basic rights away from people who work.

In response to this latest shocker, Helen Kelly tweeted a link to a piece she wrote in 2012, when, no surprise, the Talleys were once again trying to deprive people and their families of basic financial security. She opens with a question:

Is it the ultimate result of colonisation unresolved, that one family, of European origin, is able to determine the economic future of a workforce that is more than 60 per cent Maori and which, for centuries, derived its living from that same sea and land from which the Talley family now make its wealth?

These are the broader questions I’ve been yammering on about all year (every year.) When the left talk about focusing on the real issues, or not getting distracted, or not confusing our message with a hundred different policies, the risk is that we forget that no worker is an island. No worker is just a worker.

“Jobs, jobs, jobs” is a great mantra. Jobs are pretty important in a capitalist society which demands we exchange money for goods and services. But jobs like the ones controlled by the Talleys family are inseparable from issues of race and colonialism. Jobs like aged care and teaching are inseparable from issues of sexism and the gender pay imbalance. Jobs governed by zero hour contracts are inherently unfair, but far more likely to affect young people or migrants.

If we keep acting and talking like the only jobs which matter or the only picture of the future of work features middle-class white kids who know how to code and dream of an affordable townhouse in Hobsonville, we’re not going to reach a lot of people. We’re leaving out a lot of people who are already underrepresented in our democracy.

A lot of people who are so terrifying when they get to use their voice that Talleys AFFCO can’t let them walk into work in a union t-shirt, in case they start a revolt.


Some meat workers have now been locked out for 90+ days and counting. The Meat Workers Union is supporting them with food parcels, and if you’re feeling a bit of the Christmas spirit, you can contribute to the fund – details on the Jobs That Count Facebook page.

What do you reckon?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: